Thrills / Chills / Kills
The Boogeyman…The ghosts around a campfire…Vampires….Hansel & Gretel’s witch…The evil step-mother…Monsters
Our childhoods are filled with tales that thrill us with adrenaline and chill us with fear. We grow up being told fairy tales of witches, evil killer step-mothers, red shoed witches and monsters of every shape and ilk. Our teen years are filled with ghost stories told around a camp-fire, scaring each other in the dark, continuing the tales of terror, visiting horror shows in fair grounds and roller coaster rides.
What is it about our morbid fascination with all things scary? Why are thrillers and horrors the biggest box-office hits in cinemas world-wide? Why are the scariest rides the most popular at fairgrounds?
When we are faced with things that terrify us we get a giant kick of adrenaline that surges through our bodies and electrifies every single nerve fibre in our body. Adrenaline pushes us to action. Whether we decide to run for the hills or stand our ground and fight the terror, we are forced to act. Our emotions are kicked into hyper-drive and we feel more alive than ever. So there is no great mystery why things that scare us draw us in time and time again. We crave that adrenaline hit. We crave that singing feeling that sends our nerve ends buzzing with an irresistible energy.
Throughout life we dare ourselves and each other to face our fears. In every culture there is a facing of fear task that needs to be overcome to get to certain stages of maturity. Facing our fears and overcoming them turn us from children into adults.
Whether it is ghosts, the dark, different phobias – we all understand fear and its features. But human beings are the only creature that seeks out the things it fears. Perhaps it is our search for adventure that is an antidote to the mundane and normal. But unlike animals, reptiles and birds; we run after things that scare us.
It is more than just the adrenaline. It is also a need to feel connected and feel raw emotion. Fear is one of the most basic and instinctual of all emotions. But fear is not necessarily always a bad emotion. Fear can help us reach the strongest parts of ourselves and resort to acts of courage that we would ordinarily not find. Fear can push us to act rather than just react. Fear also makes us feel completely alive and gives us a rich appreciation for our own survival. Fear casts a harsh light on the fragility of the human condition but it is also forces us to count every second as precious.
What makes a story scary?
The setting can be a huge part of setting your reader / viewer up for fear. It could be a graveyard on a misty night, a darkened alleyway, an abandoned house, an office building at night, a creaking floor and opening door…all of these would immediately put you in the seat of fear.
Characters can be another set up for fear. Creepy old people, a child that seems to look into your soul, a menacing individual or the guy/girl who seems just too good to be true…
But for me the scariest scenes are those that could happen and that might happen. When we read something and watch something and believe that it could happen. When the normal suddenly degenerates into the bizarre and twisted. These are the ideas and stories that really scare me. Monsters don’t scare me but vengeful spirits/ghosts do. Vampires don’t scare me but sharks and snakes do.
Watching or reading something scary makes me appreciate safety and security. It makes me feel alive and immeasurably grateful to be alive. There is a lot of things and people in this world that are truly scary but to know the light we sometimes need to confront the darkness. Another reason why I love reading and watching thrillers is that the good guys always triumph, it may be by the skin of their teeth, but they do triumph. The bad guys always end up on the worse end of the tale, either being killed, destroyed or caught.
A great thriller walks a close line between the bizarre and normal. It brings out the flaws and fears in the characters and forces them to new levels of strength, fortitude, courage, survival and the most basic levels of humanity.
I am often asked why I not only read and watch thrillers but write them too. I am drawn to the ultimate fight between good and evil and in every good thriller – book or movie – good trumps evil. I write dark fiction because it helps me balance emotions. I also love pushing characters into terrible spots that they have to get out of to survive. I love writing that is filled with conflict and tension. There is no way that one can hide from darkness in this world but we can teach ourselves that light can triumph over that darkness. After all, it takes only one small match that when lit can light up a whole room. Darkness flees from light. That is the natural order of things. The night can be long, dark, cold and threatening but eventually the sun rises with dawn and the warmth of a new day brings hope.
This is why I write dark fiction. I write it to remind myself that there is darkness in the world and there are dangerous things, people and situations. But there is also light and goodness. There is also courage and human compassion. Writing dark fiction allows me to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness and courage over fear. Writing a believable antagonist that fills me with fear and foreboding makes me write a believable protagonist that fills me with hope and courage. Writing dark fiction allows me to acknowledge darkness and fear but more importantly it allows me to celebrate light and courage.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. ~Ambrose Redmoon
- Open your hands when you’re scared (peopleskillsblog.wordpress.com)
- Maniacal Monday: The Shadow, From Amnesia: The Dark Descent (jlawrencekenny.wordpress.com)
- Storyteller (biertjuh58.wordpress.com)
- All the fun of the scare (independent.co.uk)
- How can you not be scared (wiki.answers.com)
- Why do you fear? (aisjournal.com)
- The Best Presents Are SCARY Presents (peacefulldawn.com)
- Adrenaline Rush (redaroundtherink.wordpress.com)
- Eerie,scary Stories to Prepare for the Halloween Holiday (mitbc.org)
- Audrey Niffenegger on Her Ghostly New Novel (time.com)
- Thriller Thursdays: Guest Author James L. Thane (dorchesterpub.wordpress.com)
- The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer: A well-crafted scare (elizabethwillse.com)
- Joseph Rubas. Bringing the Fear. (shellypicarella.wordpress.com)